10 ways to make a rental your own (without doing any permanent damage)
You shouldn't have to wait to buy a house to feel at home, says Emily Westbrooks. Try these low-impact décor tweaks to refresh your rental
The words 'rental crisis' are depressingly familiar to many people out there, but even if spiralling rents mean that you're forced to settle for somewhere more unkempt or old-fashioned than you'd ideally like, there's no reason that you can't cheer up your new surrounds.
In many ways, renting can be downright preferable to owning your own place. The oven breaks, call your landlord. Leaky roof? Not your problem. Well, at least not your cheque book; it might be soggy there for a bit. One lament most renters have is that they aren't able to truly showcase their own style in a home that isn't their own. Whether your rental comes with overinflated faux leather reclining sofas or a kitchen tile emblazoned with Tuscan fruit baskets, feeling really at home in a rental can be a challenge if you don't love the finishes or the furniture.
There are simple ways, however, to make that rental feel like a space that reflects your taste, with a little investment or elbow grease. First things first, talk to your landlord about changes he or she might make to the rental, or changes you might make. A landlord isn't likely to be too excited to fund a full renovation for you, but certain changes might improve the overall quality of the rental in the future, making them more appealing from your landlord's perspective.
I spent three long years living in a rental that was painted head to trim in light beige paint before I mustered the nerve to ask whether I could paint the apartment white. Finally, I reminded myself that the worst that could happen was that our landlord might say no. In the end, I was given permission to paint the entire apartment and proceeded to kick myself for not asking sooner.
Your willingness to put in the labour can also improve your chances of coming to an agreement with your landlord. If you're asking for permission to make cosmetic changes, keep in mind what will make the apartment easier for the landlord to rent when you eventually move out. Bright purple paint in the kitchen might not suit future tenants, so be willing to use a relatively neutral colour or agree on the shade with your landlord. Here are 10 easy ways to add your own style to your rented home…
1 Luxe-look lighting
If a lick of new paint doesn't do the trick, think of changes you can make and reverse upon moving out. Light fixtures can be simple and inexpensive to change; simply store the old fixtures somewhere safe for the duration of your stay and replace them when your time there is up. Complicated light fixtures can be tricky but many rentals come with overhead lights in which the shades can be swapped out, or hanging bulbs that you can easily update with a pendant light.
Find it: From a selection at M&S, marksandspencer.ie
2 Hip hardware
A quick fix for the kitchen presses or even bedroom wardrobes is to swap out dated hardware - aka cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. Just ensure your new hardware can fit into the same holes as the old pieces, and then bag and clearly label the old hardware before storing it. You'd be surprised how quickly an unmarked collection of screws and knobs can be misplaced, creating a moving- day nightmare!
Find it: For traditional styles visit knobsandknockers.ie and try Avoca for more colourful offerings, avoca.ie
3 Cool contact paper
Contact paper - yes, that stuff that you used to cover your schoolbooks with - can cover all manner of smaller rental-home sins. There's a wide range of styles available, from frosted glass and colourful patterns to marble or wood-effect finishes. If you're faced with tacky tiles in the kitchen, cover them with a swath of marble contact paper, which you can whip off before you move out. Even the fridge and dishwasher can be covered with faux stainless steel contact paper.
Find it: Widely available in hardware specialist stores such as Woodie's, where rolls start at €4.99, woodies.ie
4 Rustic rugs
There's a special place in decorating hell for rental-apartment carpet. Why, oh why, is it always that particular shade of greyish-brown that could only come from grinding in years of grime?
Start by having it cleaned, then use the trend of layering rugs to your advantage. In living areas, treat the wall-to-wall carpet as though it were linoleum or wood flooring, placing area rugs under sofas and coffee tables. In the bedroom, especially, you'll want your own carpet under your feet, so use runners on each side of the bed on top of rental carpet, or use a large area rug that covers more square footage.
Find it: Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic at Dunnes Stores has good selection of pattern and sizes. Pictured right are rugs priced from €195 at DFS, dfs.ie
5 Beautiful blinds
Those cheap, plastic Venetian blinds scream 'rental' and take away from just about any curtain you could drape over them. Replace them with something a step or two nicer, but that doesn't involve too much customisation. Ikea's roller blinds come in standard sizes and will add a little texture to your windows, pairing nicely with coloured or white panel curtains.
Find it: Prices at Ikea start from €4, ikea.com/ie
6 Miraculous mirrors
Mirrors are a space-expanding trick you should employ whether you're renting or not. Any home can benefit from the extra angles and light that a few well-placed mirrors can provide. Do ensure you use sturdy-enough screws to keep heavy mirrors in place, and get comfortable using a paste such as Pollyfilla and a putty knife to fill those holes before you leave.
Find it: Black mirror, €185; rose mirror, €305, both April and the Bear, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, aprilandthebear.com
7 Paper and paint… your furniture
You might not be willing to start hammering any built-in storage in your rented home, but flatpack shelves and units are cheap to buy and easy to upgrade. Simply take off the back panel and cover with removable wallpaper, contact paper or fabric attached with watered-down white craft glue. For a weekend project, paint a cheap purchase or charity-shop find with chalk paint, and then add a patterned back - et voilà, you have customised a unique piece of furniture.
Find it: Buy chalk paint and sign up for an upcycling tutorial at Island Living, Dublin, islandliving.ie
8 Removable wallpaper (yes, really!)
If paint isn't going to cut it to showcase your interiors style, consider investing in removable wallpaper. It's not always the cheapest solution, but it is one that will certainly pack a big design punch. Using a low-tack adhesive - 'renters' wallpaper', as it's often known, can be peeled off and rehung, brilliant if your first attempt at hanging is a little crooked or even if you want to take it with you to your next abode. Removable/peelable wallpaper works best on eggshell, satin or semi-gloss walls. Watch out for matte finishes or loose plaster, which can pull when you remove the paper. It can also be used to decorate other surfaces, from coffee tables to wardrobe doors and splashbacks to stairs. If you don't have a headboard, you could use some patterned removable paper at the head of the bed to give the illusion of more height.
Find it: Find a selection of brands that deliver to Ireland at etsy.ie
9 Wow with washi tape
Japanese masking tape, often called washi tape, is made for renters. It's just sticky enough to be useful but isn't so sticky it will take paint off walls. It comes in a range of fun colours and patterns, meaning you can add a little zing to your walls, your appliances, even mirrors without doing permanent damage. Find it in crafts stores - where it's used for scrapbooking - and on Etsy.com. There are thousands of suggestions for how to embrace your artistic side and use it to best effect on Pinterest.
Find it: Washi tape €3.40 per 10m roll, aprilandthebear.com
10 Killer cabinets
Cheap medicine cabinets can bring a bathroom's style down quickly. Do a little investigating to find out whether a cabinet can be easily removed and replace it with a large mirror. Few people need the limited storage a medicine cabinet provides, but everyone can benefit from a light, bright mirror in the bathroom.
Find it: Silveran mirror, €30-40, Ikea, ikea.com/ie
Hang it all
If a picture paints a thousand words, it can say an awful lot about your personal style in a rented home. The current trend for filling shelves and mantelpieces with a collection of framed prints, or even just leaning larger pictures against the wall from the floor, is perfect for making an impact that can be easily packed away. If you do want to fill your walls, make use of Command's Damage Free Hanging range of adhesive strips, hooks and clips (command.3m.co.uk) which are widely available in stationery and hardware stores.